Faced with the prospect of re-election or passing the buck, some of the Sandusky City Commissioners appear to be willing to pass the buck.
For several months now the commission has been grappling with a proposal for a $175 million development of about 30 acres of waterfront land. The project stretches from the Surf's Up swimming pool area to Battery Park Marina, the Sandusky Sailing Club and the City Hall property.
The project calls for a makeover of the area including construction of condominiums, retail space, a hotel, restaurants and an indoor sports facility. In all, 15 acres will be private, and 15 acres will provide public access. The project will require the relocation of City Hall and some adjustments to the layout of the Sandusky Sailing Club.
CEG Development and Meacham Apel Architects, both of Dublin, Ohio, are the companies that were selected by the commission to provide the conceptual plans for the redevelopment of the property. The area has been labeled the "Marina District." The developers have been working diligently to address all citizens' concerns, and they have attempted to compromise each time an objection has been raised.
The city is at a crossroad. If the commission votes to proceed with the planning for the project it delivers a message -- loud and clear -- Sandusky is open for business. If it doesn't, it may be years before another opportunity for significant development comes along.
The conceptual plan is a good one. Travel to waterfront communities around the nation -- from Annapolis, Md., to Traverse City, Mich., to Marina Del Rey, Calif. -- and visualize what can happen here. The possibilities are exciting.
This project needs to move forward. Sometimes change is good for a community. In this case it almost seems like a last chance for survival. The commissioners need to think outside the box they have built for themselves. Sandusky can't be all things to all its residents, and the commissioners need to realize some of the very things residents are objecting to when it comes to this development plan are already part of Erie County.
Sure, it is nice to consider the need for waterfront access, but this plan, along with the work to obtain a grant for a pathway connecting the city's major downtown developments and the area behind the Sandusky airport on Cleveland Road, provides for more waterfront access than the residents have ever enjoyed. It is also important for the commissioners to remember Sandusky is part of Erie County, and Erie MetroParks has worked for years to preserve major portions of the waterfront.
Commissioner Dave Waddington is going door to door asking residents to sign a petition to put the issue of redevelopment on the ballot and to let the decision for this project rest with the voters. He has reportedly told at least one commissioner that if he didn't let the voters decide the issue, chances for re-election are close to nil.
On the surface, it appears some of the commissioners believe what Waddington says or at the very least are waiting to see how things fall into place. Faced with several public meetings that have included endless hours of objections to the project (from a very small percentage of the population), the commissioners have thus far delayed voting to enter into an agreement with the developers to allow for design work to proceed.
There are a lot of clichés to describe their action or, more accurately, their lack of action, including the fact that the commissioners are burying their heads in the sand.
If the commission doesn't vote to proceed with the development agreement, it is shirking it responsibilities. All seven of the commissioners were elected to office to serve the public. They were not elected to office to walk away from the tough decisions.
And, while some people might find quoting Kermit the Frog's lament, "It ain't easy being green," is an appropriate way to describe the job of a commissioner, it is time some of the commissioners started thinking about the survival of an economically depressed city and not their own survival as politicians.